REC's New Report Explores Students' Role in University Community Investing

Five years after the worst financial crisis in the US since the Great Depression, communities continue to suffer. Wealth inequality is at some of the highest levels since the founding of the country[1] and growing more rapidly than any other industrialized nation[2]. Increasingly, the effects of this inequality are recognized as going beyond social injustice to significantly imperiling American democracy and the potential for economic recovery[3].

At the root of this crisis is a powerful force: the idea that capital can only be invested to maximize financial return for a company's shareholders, regardless of the impact on the community. When those investments prove too risky or when the market takes a turn, everyday people pay the price. Today, while communities across the United States continue to suffer, huge pools of investment capital are often to be found sitting right next door, in community institutions such as hospitals, foundations, and universities.

Universities are some of the largest mission driven organizations and institutional investors, and can play a significant role in affecting the development of a community. They can challenge the role of capital as a solely self serving instrument. With over $400 billion in collective endowments and another $400 billion in annual spending, universities have the potential to be a counterweight and shift capital towards a model of investment that builds community economies which provide financial, social and environmental rewards.

To date, only a limited number of universities invest locally or in their communities. They could do much more.

In June 2012, the Responsible Endowments Coalition and the Democracy Collaborative launched a research project to explore student involvement in university-led community investment. We wanted to see how stakeholders - particularly students, faculty and alumni - could influence their colleges and ensure that community members are brought into conversations pertaining to community development & finance. In our study, we found that when these university stakeholders, community members, organizations, and college administrations come together, it is more likely that a long-term investment will occur with the community's needs prioritized. We found that colleges have the ability to make these kinds of investments at scale.

We are excited to announce the release of our new report, a result of our months-long research project, Raising Student Voices: Student Action for University Community Investment, a joint publication with The Democracy Collaborative. The study explores ways that university-community partnerships can deepen to help ensure that institutional investment policies benefit the communities in which US colleges are based.



The report profiles three administration-led initiatives and three student-led initiatives, as well as five potential future partnerships, where institutional investments are directed into local communities in a way that empowers low-income residents, develops small businesses, and generates sustainable economic development. Communities need investment capital to scale up local businesses that colleges hope to work with. They also need investment in housing, food, and jobs. Many of these needs can be met by investing in community development financial institutions (CDFIs), REC's preferred community investment vehicle.

Moving forward, the report recommends that student campaigns work in close collaboration with alumni groups, community organizations, college administrators, and national higher education networks to move university investing to scale and ensure long-term sustainable investment in the community. This kind of deep collaboration is vital to creating true accountability to the communities receiving investments. It is also vital to creating the types of partnerships and investments that meet the needs of all members of a community--not just an elite few.

REC is pleased for the launch of this paper and we extend our thanks to the research team at The Democracy Collaborative for all their hard work. We would also like to acknowledge and express our sincere thanks to all the students, faculty, community members, and others for taking time out of their busy schedules to engage with us on the issue of university community investing.

 

 




[1] Weissmann, Jordan. “US Income Inequality: It’s Worse Today Than it Was in 1774”. The Atlantic, 19 September 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/09/us-income-inequality-its-worse-today-than-it-was-in-1774/262537/




[2] Gangl, Markus. “A longitudinal perspective on income inequality in the US and Europe”. Focus: Institute for Research on Poverty: Vol. 26, No. 1, Summer-Fall 2008.




[3] See Stiglitz, Joseph The price of Inequality (2012); and Noah, Timothy The Great Divergence (2013).


 
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Dispatch: Sallie Mae Agrees to Meet with Students, Vote on Shareholder Resolution for Transparency

Blog from Lauren Ressler

On Thursday May 30th, over two hundred students and community members caravanned to Newark, Delaware for the Sallie Mae annual shareholder meeting. They braved temperatures over 90 degrees to demand Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest private student loan agency, take action to change policies that trap students in a lifetime of debt.

The first buses started rolling in around 6:00 a.m. bringing students from Massachusetts, New York, Wisconsin, and even Florida. By 9:30 a.m. we were ready to move. We marched about half a mile to the Sallie Mae headquarters where we were met by over 50 police officers including a number of mounted officers and police dogs.

They had formed a human wall of blue shirts and wide brimmed hats. As we approached this intimidating barrier we began to sing softly:

“We who believe in justice cannot rest
We who believe in justice cannot rest until it’s won.”

The police began separating us into two groups, those with shares who were able to go into the meeting and those without who set out to keep pressure on throughout the meeting. The “inside team” was comprised of students, community organizers, and union members including Randi Wiengarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

The inside team was escorted through the doors of the Sallie Mae building where two people the front desks scrutinized identification and proxy paperwork before sending people through a comprehensive bag search and metal detector. Cell phones were confiscated and discussions about whether we would be allowed inside the shareholder meeting or sent to an overflow room ensued. We successfully negotiated to get every member of our team into the shareholder meeting.

By the time we finished sitting down the room was packed. Most of the audience was over 50, white, and predominantly male. The opening remarks given by the President of Sallie Mae focused on reminding the people in the room that Sallie Mae was turning 40 this year and that the students who took out loans with Sallie Mae would be ensured a bright future if they rigorously planned how much debt they could afford with their parents, cut back their personal spending on frivolous items, and most importantly graduated at all costs.

Following the introduction, the Chair of the Board introduced the meeting agenda and opened the floor for someone to introduce a resolution put forward by the Responsible Endowments Coalition and American Rights at Work, that would require Sallie Mae to disclose all lobbying spending and membership in trade unions like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

After the resolution was introduced and seconded, shareholders were given space to ask questions concerning the agenda items. At this point the students from our team representing the Dream Defenders and United States Student Association stood and told their stories about what it was like to rack up thousands of dollars in debt in pursuit of an education. They called for Sallie Mae executives to meet with students in person to discuss the exorbitant interest rates being charged to students who could least afford them, the high rates of executive compensation, and the disturbing ties between the lender and racist, anti-student organizations like ALEC that are behind a push to privatize education in the US.

As the students called into question these predatory lending practice and questionable affiliations, the tone of the meeting changed. The moderator became more terse and flippant with his answers. In the end the inside team re-emerged with two tangible victories.

Sallie Mae executives agreed to set up an unprecedented meeting with students before the end of June. Additionally, the shareholder resolution calling for public disclosure received a huge 35.5% of the vote.

The crowd outside that persevered through over an hour and a half of scorching temperatures broke out in cheers as the inside team appeared and shared the good news. Without the hundreds of people outside refusing to leave until terms were met, the action would not have been a success and most likely wouldn’t have forced Sallie Mae into meeting with the stakeholders who matter most: students.
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Wendy's: Old-Fashioned Exploitation

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Yesterday REC teamed up with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), and went inside of Wendy's shareholder meeting!

Labor Notes writes:
After a rally outside, three worker representatives attended the meeting, using shareholder proxies from the Responsible Endowments Coalition.

CIW’s Gerardo Reyes-Chavez said they listened to presentations on profits and on how the company is redesigning its image, and then asked CEO Emil Brolick to sign on to Fair Food, which would raise the price Wendy’s pays for tomatoes by a penny a pound.

Want to find out more?  Check out the CIW's own report back.
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Apply Now! 2013 Summer Organizing Retreat

REC will be hosting two Summer Organizing Retreats, for students to come together and discuss the endowment, corporate power, and strategies for winning.

ABOUT REC SUMMER ORGANIZING RETREATS

How would you change the world with one million dollars? What about $10 million, $100 million, or $1 billion? Students across the country are standing up to corporate power and demanding control over their universities' money!

Universities, as major institutional investors, are failing our communities by supporting the financial status quo in higher ed: maximizing profit over all social or environmental considerations; choosing high-risk, high-reward dealings; investing in highly complex financial instruments with little transparency; banking with Wall Street, instead of equally sound local community institutions; and choosing to not engage or influence the corporations in which they’re investing.

Youth are getting together and piece-by-piece, campaign-by-campaign, building an endowment movement. We invite you to join us for a week-long training retreat to develop your endowment knowledge and share strategies from across the movement! Our summer program is perfect for someone new to the responsible investment movement in higher education, or for someone looking to develop a strong campaign plan for next year. There is no previous experience or knowledge required.
WHAT WILL BE COVERED

We will be discussing a number of subjects relevant to today’s student leaders, including -

- Confronting corporate power: corporations and universities
- How to understand your endowment and the responsible investment strategies that can develop alternative economies
- How to be an effective student leader: recruiting, engaging, and organizing your campus
- Analyzing success stories! How has responsible investment impacted workers’ rights; environmental justice issues such as climate change, hydraulic fracturing and mountaintop removal coal mining; corporate contributions and our political system; LGBTQ nondiscrimination; poverty in our local communities; and much more.
WHO SHOULD APPLY?

If you have a passion for social justice and are prepared for an intensive and intimate experience, you have everything you need. The goal of this training is to provide students with all of the knowledge they would need to create change at their university from the ground up. No previous knowledge or experience in finance, organizing, or activism is required.
TWO RETREATS

Northeast Summer Organizing Retreat

Where: Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center, Lakona Harbor, NJ. Within two hours of NYC and Philadelphia by car, and also fully accessible to both cities by public transit
When: Sunday evening — Saturday morning, July 28 — August 3, 2013

West Coast Summer Organizing Retreat

Where: Ben Lomond Quaker Center, Ben Lomond, CA. Less than 2 hours south of San Francisco by car, and also accessible by public transit.
When: Saturday evening — Friday morning, August 17 — 23, 2013
COST

The suggested tuition -- including food, housing, and staff time for the entire week -- varies depending on the number of attendees from your school:
• If you are the only attendee from your school: $300/person
• If you are one of 2 attendees from your school: $210/person
• If you are one of 3 attendees from your school: $160/person

However, we recognize that not everyone is in a position to pay this much or raise this much money. We hope to work with each attendee to pay on a sliding scale whatever they may be able to. Between REC's scholarship funding and your own fundraising abilities we are committed to making sure that all who wish to attend will be able to. Full and partial scholarships are available and we will also have travel funding available for those who are unable to support their travel. Let's work together to figure it out!
DEADLINE

Apply using our Google Form. Rolling until spaces are filled! We are currently still accepting applications. The sooner the better.
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Brown Students Rally to Demand Coal Divestment

As Semester Winds Down, Divestment Heats Up

By KEVIN PROFT/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Students from New York to Boston rallied May 3 with Brown Divest Coal activists on Brown University’s main green, demanding that President Christina Paxson and The Corporation of Brown University vote on whether to divest the college’s $2.5 billion endowment from the 15 largest coal companies in the United States during an upcoming May 23 meeting.

Rally organizers provided the 150 attendees with symbolic orange ballots to cast into the “smokestack” of the ballot box, a miniature coal-powered plant made from a cardboard box with a big X on its side.

Before casting their ballots, many students explained why halting climate change mattered to them.

“If we do not take action, one billion people will be displaced by climate change by the end of the century,” Brown University freshman Tammy Jiang said. “We cannot let that happen.”

To read the full article click here. This article is from ecoRInews.
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Beyond Divestment: Everything You Need to Know about Reinvestment in Climate Solutions

Fossil Fuel Divestment has been the phrase on everyone’s lips.

Our campaign is focused on taking our money out of the dirty fossil fuel industry removing their social licence to operate. Students across the country are demanding that their universities' administrations think critically about the social and political impacts of their investments.

Our movement is forcing universities to take unprecedented action.

With this new eye to where money is flowing, there has been something missing from the conversation that has the power to amplify the impact of divestment: that element is reinvestment. Reinvestment moves money toward solutions that will directly grow the green economy. While we need investment in these types of technology and infrastructure in order to transition our economy, reinvestment also creates a unique opportunity to support our allies in frontline communities.

“Reinvestment can address public health issues by funding developments in wastewater treatment and mass transit. Investments in new technology will increase access and affordability of renewable energy, resulting in increased savings for all communities.”

Today the Responsible Endowments Coalition and Energy Action Coalition unveils a new resource: A Complete Guide to Reinvestment. We are calling on universities to reinvest. Investments of just 5% of our collective endowments could grow the green economy by $20 billion. As individuals, pension funds, and communities join this movement the act of reinvesting becomes revolutionary.

To move your university to fund the future click here to download our Complete Guide to Reinvestment today.
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Required Viewing: Middlebury Divestment Panel Viewing Guide

It's not really required viewing, but I highly suggest this watching this. In January, Middlebury College hosted a panel discussion on divestment that included Bill McKibben, the college’s Chief Financial Officer, President of their endowment manager, Investure, and other professionals and campus stakeholders. The panel was broadcast live online, but with Board of Trustees meetings season upon us we thought we would take it off the resource shelf to share. It covers many of the common arguments made for and against fossil fuel divestment. The perspectives shared by the panelist are beneficial in knowing what types of questions you may encounter in discussing divestment with campus administrators.  If you don’t have a full two hours to watch the panel, no worries, I created a handy viewing guide with a summary of key points and timestamps. If you can’t get enough and are looking for the play by play I’m happy to share the 10 pages of notes I took! Feel free to email me at reagan@endowmentsethics.org.

 

Post and resource written by Reagan Richmond, REC Campaign Consultant
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Dispatch from Peabody Shareholder Meeting

This afternoon, a loose coalition of students, frontline community members, retirees of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), forgotten people from Black Mesa, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, and allies converged on the annual shareholder meeting of Peabody Energy in Gillette, Wyoming. Peabody bills itself as the "world's largest private-sector coal company," and we were there to confront them on their horrendous business practices.

Primarily I was there supporting the voices of the people most affected by Peabody: relocated off their ancestral land, cheated out of their pensions and healthcare, menaced by hungry strip mine expansion. But as a student at Washington University in St. Louis involved in the campus campaign for fossil fuel divestment, attending the meeting had a further, more personal significance.

Not only is Peabody headquartered in St. Louis, but in 2011, the company endowed a research institute at WashU, the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization. So, when Peabody advertises on its website that it is a global leader in "clean coal solutions," it can point to the work done by WashU faculty and students. This is despite the fact that the Consortium's primary focus, carbon capture and sequestration, will only be commercially viable after the window to prevent catastrophic climate change is long shut. It's flagrant greenwashing.

Even more disturbingly, Peabody's CEO, Greg Boyce, sits on my school's Board of Trustees. To put that in perspective, this guy who was asked to preside over the longterm integrity of an institution fundamentally about the future directs a company that plans on destabilizing the global climate system for money.

From the perspective of increased funding (and, worryingly, corporate direction) for engineering research, bravo. From the perspective of students trying to catalyze a shift in the University's myopic investment policy away from fossil fuel companies, tough luck.

These kinds of tight relationships between corporate funders and academia are nothing new, but they certainly provide another reason to divest: to stop directly validating companies and economic models bent on wrecking the planet's climate stability and endangering us all. Moreover, these relationships require us to expand our notion of divestment. As it's often a college's Board that must sign off on a change in endowment investment strategy, we must make sure we don't need to divest our schools of some trustees, first.

Many of the folks at the shareholder meeting in Gillette were there to confront the company directly about their concerns long swept under the rug. For me, it was also a step towards removing Greg Boyce from the Board of Trustees. That's one big reason why I followed Peabody to Wyoming: to build the case for why even among big businesses with generally poor environmental, labor, and social records, Peabody is a pariah that deserves no part in deciding anything having to do with my future. While he is a sitting member, there's virtually no chance of my school divesting. It's that simple.

We have our our work cut out for us.

This post is from Dan Cohn, a student activist and senior at Washington University in St. Louis, in partnership with the Responsible Endowments Coalition
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Photo Round-up: Endowment Week of Action

April 1-5 was our first Endowment Week of Action. We're taking action every day, during our Week of Action campuses across the country decided to up the ante!

As youth we've created a mass movement of young people demanding control of capital - and our own future. Check out highlights below:

University of Washington | Move Our Money

University of Washington student Monica Mendoza Castrejon created this image for the Move Our Money campaign. Click here for more artwork from Monica.

some_textUC Berkeley | Move Our Money

A multicultural group of 70 student organizers reenacted a prison chain gang, tying themselves together by the ankle and marching onto UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza to demand that the university divest from the Prison Industrial Complex. As a result of the pressure from the action, as well as a massive multicultural community presence at the student senate meeting, UC Berkeley's student senate voted to divest all of their funds from the Prison Industrial Complex, and to demand that the University do the same.

Check out video of the action below:



Oberlin | Move Our Money

Oberlin’s Responsible Investing Organization (RIO) tabled at the main library, as part of RIO’s base-building Break Up With Your Bank project. RIO is encouraging students to transfer their balances to local credit unions.

some_textUniversity of Oregon | Move our Money

Students from the University of Oregon's MEChA chapter supported the Move our Money campaign by approaching local credit unions and calling for Spanish-speaking staff in an effort to improve accessibility to the local Latino community.

some_textUniversity of Pennsylvania | Move our Money

Students did outreach at the Social Justice Mixer, in preparation for their April 30 meeting with Penn’s Executive Vice President.

some_textMcGill University | Fossil Free Divestment & Reinvestment

Students with Divest McGill made a presentation to the Board of Governors.

some_textUniversity of Massachusetts Amherst | Fossil Free Divestment & Reinvestment

Over 200 students came together for a teach in about divestment.

some_textSmith and Mt. Holyoke | Fossil Free Divestment & Reinvestment

Smith students organized a recruitment event for their divestment team and petition drive against the Keyston XL pipeline.

some_textHEI Hotel Workers Rising | Divest

REC participated in a panel discussion about the HEI Hotel Workers Rising campaign.

We also were part of a delegation to HEI headquarters in New Haven, CT! A representative from REC, along with a Yale student, a Unite Here organizer, and 2 HEI workers managed to get speak with Nigel Hurst, Senior VP of HEI.

some_textCarleton College | Active Ownership

A member of Carleton’s Committee on Investor Responsibility (CRIC) penned an op-ed asking, “When you hear the word CRIC what usually comes to mind?”

some_textHarvard | Active Ownership

Responsible Investment at Harvard sent a student delegation to Jane Mendillo, President & CEO of Harvard Management Company.

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In other exciting news Harvard students and alumni have independently invested the Fair Harvard Fund. Click here for more info.
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$640 Million Dollars and C.R.I.C.

Pulpit rockBy Bakhtawar Chaudry

When you hear the word CRIC what usually comes to mind? The chirping of crickets, a new noise in a comic book, or an organization of students, faculty and staff that advise the Board of Trustees on Carleton’s endowment and fights off crime everywhere.  Well, it is the latter minus the crime fighting part. CRIC standing for Carleton Responsible Investment Committee has been running in Carleton for over eight years and has been advising the Board of Trustees on how to vote as certain issues arise in the Carleton Community. The committee meets once a week discussing and researching resolutions, organizations, events, and opportunities.   The goal of CRIC is to be engaged by the Carleton Community, yet many people are unaware of the Organization and when they do become aware it takes awhile to understand the process. From endowments, resolutions and proxies CRIC can be a committee with a lot to understand; however, with enough communication the vision and goal of CRIC is apparent: projecting the community’s voice.

In my first meeting on CRIC I was extremely overwhelmed. Terms were being thrown such as resolutions, proxies and endowments. I got a clearer understanding of these terms as I observed and participated in meetings.  For instance a resolution may be a fairly simple term. I mean we have resolutions all the time from New Year’s Day to our legislative body, but what is a resolution when it comes to investments and who creates them. Well, that would have to be shareholders. See what happens is a resolution is filed by an organization or an individual who has stock in the company. They become the lead filer and are joined by other shareholders as co-filers. Then these resolutions are automatically on a company’s proxy list which means they will be held for a vote at the shareholder’s meeting which is sometime in the Spring.  Once these resolutions have been filed CRIC committee members receive an alert and track all the ones that come in. We then compile all the resolutions and decide which ones to present to the Board of Trustees for a “yes” vote. The number one factor in deciding how to proceed with a particular resolution is the voice of the Carleton Community. For instance we may receive a resolution asking a company to research alternative energy. We know that Carleton is an environmentally friendly campus therefore we know this is a good resolution that embodies Carleton’s values.

In fact it is the community’s voice that has caused CRIC to research and engage in activities that promote ethical and responsible investing. So far we have branched out to schools and organizations like the Responsible Endowment Coalition (REC). Through REC we are able to engage with other schools that hold our same values and share ideas in order to make the investment process more efficient. One idea we have gained from other schools, which is a big accomplishment for CRIC, is the proxy voting policy which already designates six categories that are very dear to Carleton and automatically gives a “yes” vote to the resolution falling under these categories. The six categories are Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Goals, Hydraulic Fracturing (Toxic Chemicals), Executive Compensation (Say on Pay), Political Contributions, Separate Chair & CEO and Equal Employment Opportunity.  This gives CRIC an opportunity to look for other issues that arise in the community bringing this voice to the Board of Trustees. However, the only way for this voice to be heard is through the involvement of the community.

Right now Carleton has an endowment of $640 million and we need the engagement of the Carleton community in order to figure out how to responsibly manage our endowment. CRIC has weekly meetings in which the community is more than welcome to sit in on and participate. For instance when researching resolutions community members can come and research with CRIC members directly advising the committee. Currently we have spots open for the Committee and we will be having an informational meeting so stay tuned for when this will happen and consider applying. For more information you can visit our website and check us out at http://apps.carleton.edu/governance/cric/.  Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want more information about CRIC or have any questions. Remember it is your voice we are projecting so please help us make it heard!

This essay was written for REC's Endowment Week of Action, and will be published next week in the Carleton school paper.
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